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Headshot Lighting Gear

Lesson 7 from: The Business of Professional Headshots

Gary Hughes

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Lesson Info

7. Headshot Lighting Gear


Class Trailer

Class Overview


Getting Headshot Clients


Headshot Pricing Models for Individuals


Headshot Pricing Models for Groups and Companies


Payment and Delivery for Groups


Six Styles of Business Headshots


Headshot Lighting Gear


Posing Basics for Headshots


Basic Standing Pose for Headshots


Basic Seated Pose for Headshots


Head Position for Headshots


Expression Sells the Image


One-Light High Key Headshot with Male Model


One-Light High Key Headshot with Female Model


Two-Light High Key Headshot with Male Model


Two-Light High Key Headshot with Female Model


Two-Light Standing Pose Headshot with Male Model


Two-Light Standing Pose Headshot with Female Model


One Light Low Key Headshot with Male Model


Two Light Low Key Headshot with Female Model


General Q&A


Constant Light: Low Key Classic Headshot with Male Model


Constant Light: Low Key Classic Headshot with Female Model


Constant Light: Standing Pose Headshot with Male Model


Constant Light: Standing Pose Headshot with Female Model


Setting up the Background for Extraction Shoot


Shooting for Extraction Headshot with Male Model


Shooting for Extraction Headshot with Female Model


Shooting Low Key Modern Headshots for Extraction


Basic Headshot Facial Retouching Techniques


Basic Headshot Eye Retouching Techniques


Basic Headshot Retouching Techniques: Dodge and Burn


Basic Headshot Retouching Q&A


Extracting a Single Subject


Creating a Headshot Composite


F-Type Headshot Lighting: Equipment and Principle


F-Type Headshot Lighting: Execution


Shooting Headshots in Volume


Lesson Info

Headshot Lighting Gear

Alright, so let's talk about gear. The best gear for the job is what you have. If you have a lot of stuff and you wanna use it, that's fine. But you can get all this stuff done with a minimum amount of stuff. In fact, most of you like, who has a speed light already? Who owns one? Most of us do. So it's not something that you don't have. So if I can show you how to do a whole set up with the one speed light, then you can start shooting that right away. Does that make sense? I don't wanna make that gear a barrier of entry into this type of work for you, because once you get into it you'll start making enough money where you'll be able to get nicer stuff if you want to. Or stuff more conducive to doing this specific style of work. But, use what you have to start with. So who wants to play a game? Be brave, who's brave? Somebody. I'll play a game. Alright, come on up. Bring the microphone with you. Alright, Cliff. Alright, Cliff? Yeah. For the children watching at home, say hi.

Hi everybody. Hey there. This is Cliff. Alright. So, we're gonna use this screen right here. Can you see us if we go just right here? I wanna play a game called Name That Light Source. So you have five images and five different lighting, and I want you to give me your best guess as to which one is which. Hey, does somebody have a pen? You wanna write down what Cliff's answers are. That would be great. Okay, just hit it. It's okay to be wrong. You're very brave. There are only thousands of people watching right now. It's okay to be wrong. You're meant to get it wrong. It makes me look better if you're wrong. Oh, okay, alright. It makes me look better if you get it wrong. I would illustrate the points. So just start... I'll say reflectors on number three. Three is reflector, you got that written down? Okay. Natural light in number four. Number four, natural light. Okay, number one, studio strobes. Number one, studio strobes. Two, constant. Mm-hmm. And number five, can you use more than one, or... No each one; there's only one use of each. There's no tricks here. Okay. So the only one left is speed lights, I think. All right, speed lights. Speed lights, number five. You got that written down? Okay. Thank you, cliff. You did a very brave thing. Let's see how we did. (audience applauds) If it was you trying to get me to do that, I'd have told you to screw off. (audience laughs) So, super, super brave. Alright, are you ready? Here we go. Did you get those right. Did you get any right? Did anyone take down his? I wasn't doing it. Yeah, so, not one, right? No, okay sorry, you lose. I was gonna give you a brand new car. (audience laughs) Actually I was gonna give ... If you would have told me that beforehand, maybe... (laughs) I'll give you a 2007 Chrysler Town and Country Touring Edition, 'cause that's what I drive, alright. I have a kid, alright, and I like minivans. Okay, so the point of the exercise isn't to show like, oh, Cliff got it wrong or, oh I'm so smart. I wasn't trying to hide anything. The point is that the lights that you use don't matter. It's not how you get there, it's that you get there. Some of these are way more elaborate than they look, that are made intended to look natural light. And some are natural light that I did in the studio. Two of these images were taken in the studio, three were taken on location. Could you tell me which ones? Some of you could. There's probably somebody really smart out there that's actually putting in the chat right now that they knew which ones were which, and that's fine. But the point is that the gear doesn't matter. It's not the most important thing. It's your ability to use what you have, alright? So let's talk about, here are our options. The gear that we're gonna talk about. There are other things. Each one has qualities that are, and even qualities that aren't on this list. Speedlights, for example, are very portable. They're battery powered, so you don't need to plug 'em in, and they're versatile because they're powerful enough to work in a lot of different situations. You can use them outside, or you can use them inside, and you can still get really great results. But, they're not particularly inexpensive. Like, if you use the Canon or Nikon speedlights, what are they $550, $600? You know. But, you're paying for the power in the portability. Does that make sense? If you go to studio strobes, they're not super portable. I mean, you can get 'em around, but they're a lot less convenient to bring around than speedlights. They're fairly inexpensive. I think you can get alien bees used on Ebay for like $99, like $100 all day long. You could seriously start to collect them. You could literally put your car up on alien bees in your front yard and it wouldn't even matter because they're that inexpensive and they're great. I use them. There are more expensive lights out there but you can get them a lot less expensively than you can buy new speedlights for. And they last a long time because they're not on batteries. I will tell you this is true, the three alien bees, and I've used them for schools and volume and all that type of stuff, I don't think I've replaced ... And I've got thousands and thousands and thousands of hours on those bulbs and I actually have not replaced one flash bulb on one of my lights in like seven years. That's not typical. But I'm telling you for the money you can't beat them. But, you have to plug them into something. And they're not particularly versatile because they're a little bulkier. So you don't wanna drag them all over the place when you're doing this type of work. It depends on what you're doing. Hybrid strobes, these are ones that are strobes that can run on battery or plug in. And these get marked positive in every possible way, except they're like 12, 13, 14, 15 hundred dollars a piece. Interfit makes one, Pro Photo makes one. And they're the best possible option if you are a millionaire. They're really fantastic. Or you're a dentist who really likes photography and does it on the side. But, for what I would be using them for, it's a lot of money that I don't need to spend to get the same job done. However, somebody else may feel differently, depending on what they do. Like, if you're a commercial porch photographer and you're shooting stuff for magazines and advertising stuff and you want to have the most powerful light on location that's gonna be the best thing. Then it's worth it to spend the money to do that. Me, I use speedlights for almost everything. Constant lights. They don't get great marks in a lot of areas because there are qualities that constant lights have that aren't even on this chart. But they're long lasting. As long as they're plugged in. And they're consistent. That's my favorite thing about constant lights, is they are consistent. Because especially if you're using ... most of your entry-price level studio strobes, the thing that makes them less expensive is that they don't fire as consistently. Have you ever taken a bunch of pictures in a row and it's like good exposure, good exposure, one stop under, good exposure, good exposure, good exposure, one stop over. That's the mark of less expensive studio strobes. The more money you spend on them ... You get some really like Normans and stuff like that. They will fire the exact same light every single time. But you're gonna pay a lot more money for them. Does that make sense? Cool. So the constant lights I use a lot. But they got a bunch of bulbs in them and they're a little heavier. So I use them in my studio almost exclusively but I don't take them on location for jobs. So, another thing to consider. Reflectors. These are the cheapest and best light source in the whole world, compared to what you would pay for other stuff. You can use them ... They're portable, they're inexpensive, they'll last a really long time unless you cut them into pieces, they don't need batteries, but they're not super versatile. And my versatile I mean you can't use them to create consistent results over and over and over and over again. Because with reflectors, you are typically reliant on what available light is there. If you have twenty head shots to shoot and they have to look the same, what if a cloud passes in front of the sun and now you've got a completely different exposure. And that guy's head shot isn't gonna look like that lady's headshot. Are you with me there? So they're really useful in a lot of ways, but they're not the best light source to rely on as your primary for work like this. Because they're inconsistent. You with me? Awesome, by the way. I have like 30 reflectors and I love the crap out of every single one of them. They're like my children. Alright, so I wanna show this to you. This is the one speedlight studio. And we're actually gonna do this in the next segment. This is how you can use one speedlight to get the result. So what I've got here, is I've got a 33 inch shoot through umbrella. I'm not gonna use that necessarily, although I can in the next segment because I sort of upgraded to something I like a little better. But a shoot through umbrella costs like $20. You know what I mean? They're so cheap. And if somebody comes by and mugs you and says give me that umbrella, it's not gonna bother you. Because it's $20. And you've got everything $20 will buy if you want it. There's no huge entry point. So I wanted to do this example with an umbrella because I'm gonna show you the actual image I made with this actual setup for an actual client. 33 inch shoot through umbrella and then I'm using a 3 by 4 stand up reflector that's that flat one right there. And by stand up, it hooks to a light stand. So it's flat underneath the client as chest level and then, you've got a 4 by 6 stand up reflector, vertically, that's bringing my fill light back into the client. And now the main mark is too ... I've got this pop up background. It's a 5 by 7 popup background which I'll show you. I love these, I use these on location. You can get em all over the place, a bunch of different companies make them. And they fold up just like a reflector does, and then they pop up into a background and they're double sided. They're really cool. I use them all the time. And so with that setup, I've got one light and a couple of reflectors. And by the way, I'm gonna use some really nice expensive reflectors from Sweet Light Systems, that I use in my studio and I love them. However, if a barrier for entry is the cost of buying that stuff, I have, until I could afford better equipment, I've used the reflective insulation duct board from Home Depot that's like $8 for a 4 by 8 sheet. And it's bright silver on one side and they're not as portable but I used them and I used them for a while. And they are fantastic reflectors, they're not the best and you don't look super professional when you use them, but, they will do in a pinch to make this look. So when you say, oh you only used one light, but you got all these fancy reflectors, I'll do it with aluminum foil and a cardboard box if you let me. So the point is, it's the photographer, not the gear. Alright? There's one thing missing from this. Me, there I am, okay. So just so you knew, that little ugly block over there is a camera and I'm standing behind it. Just so you're aware of the view. You like that? I don't have to explain the joke. So here's the image that comes from it, which we've seen already today. Perfectly acceptable classic muslin look, with one speedlight. That's an actual client photo that I did, I didn't like make that here yesterday. But, using one light. You know why? Because I was in a room that was nine feet by twelve feet. And so I could've brought a lot more lights and I could've maybe done it fancier, but why, when I don't have that room? And you know I'm gonna be in a small room shooting on location for this client. So one light can get that done and that's good for anybody.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

6 Styles of Headshots
Gear List

Ratings and Reviews

Melville McLean

Gary Hughes is possibly the best teacher I have seen here and that is a very high compliment. His business analysis is simple and to the point. His set ups and techniques are simple and straight forward, no easy task in itself. His interactions with his models/clients are finely developed and reduced into the fewest but most important key exchanges. He teaches by example how to interact and direct. If you are a high volume photography with brief time per sitter, you might especially appreciate his tips. It is extraordinarily difficult to keep a tight, well structured class going live for so long at a time. His intelligence, wit and personality are all in his favor but it is the content itself that is most impressive. I am not a portrait photographer but I have 30 years of commercial studio experience. He knows what is most important, leaves out the rest and has organized the material in anticipation of most difficulties that arise so that it rests in a seamless, smooth, coherent learning experience. All of his practical advice is excellent. Just understand that his work is about doing a relatively large number of shots in the most efficient way rather than a lot of time spent on a few clients for a completely different format [presentation like very large prints. In fact he is especially pragmatic. He emphasizes that you do not have to own the most expensive equipment but you absolutely do have to know how to use the equipment that you already have. And I am telling you this as someone he makes fun of in his course with fancy cameras and Profoto lighting gear. He is an advocate of all thought out approaches as well as relying on skills and knowledge. You will understand how and why to make all of his key, conventional light and posing set ups. He makes everything sound simple and doable -- and with his help -- it is. What you have to appreciate is that it is up to each individual to acquire the specialized skills to make our work compelling enough to be competitive. The unspoken truth that we all face is that talent plays a key role as well and that it takes time to become every accomplished. But I have also seen concentration, commitment and hard work result in developing innate talents that blossom in very successful careers. Mr Hughes reduces every step into the clearest, most essential components. He is self effacing both as a photographer and post process retoucher but he is very good indeed and does not waste time overdoing images that cannot benefit from a larger format presentation. Everything is appropriate and practical. He has already removed everything that does not matter for his purposes for us that would only interfere with the concise, clarity of his presentation.


I am so glad that I had the opportunity to watch this course. It has not only provided valuable lighting set-ups, but also great basics for posing.!. The Photoshop extraction technique Gary demonstrated was icing on the cake. Gary did a great job teaching and I greatly admired the technique in which he taught. Thanks for a great class!


This was an excellent class! The class covered so much information and great tips and ideas. Gary is funny and has an easy going approach, which makes the class that much more enjoyable. As a struggling pet photographer, I have been trying to find something to supplement my business with that does not involve children/babies, or shooting weddings again and headshots seemed to be a great option. After watching this class, I feel confident building up a headshot component to my business. Definitely recommend this class!

Student Work